HAMPTON, Va. – Materials now aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour may one day be used for next-generation spacesuits or for hardware aboard Orion, the vehicle now being developed to take America back to the moon.
The Materials International Space Station Experiments (MISSEs) 6A and 6B will be deployed during a spacewalk by the STS-123 crew on Tuesday, March 18, flight day eight. This round of experiments is the first in the series to draw power from the space station.
"The previous MISSE cases had small batteries that provided power, so they were obviously very limited in what they could do," said Bill Kinard, MISSE chief scientist and principal investigator. "This time, by receiving power from the space station, they can be much more active in the things they can do."
Scheduled to remain in space for at least 12 months, MISSEs 6A and 6B will use devices such as mechanical shutters to block the sunlight for protection from UV radiation. Devices on the containers will also be able to control the amount of time the test specimens are exposed to the harsh environment of space.
The MISSE project -- managed by NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. -- is a series of experiments being conducted to investigate the effects of long-term exposure of materials to the space environment.
The two suitcase-like containers, called Passive Experiment Containers (PECs), are full of differing specimens including candidate materials for Orion, NASA's next generation of spacecraft.
"MISSEs 6A and 6B are really focused directly to make contributions to the new Orion spacecraft," said Kinard. "MISSE 6 will get data on materials for future spacesuits and for the heat shield, materials for seals in the airlocks where Orion docks with the space station. We're also flying candidate solar cells that would be a part of the power system on Orion."
Mounted to the outside of the space station, MISSEs 6A and 6B are test beds for materials that will be studied for the effects of atomic oxygen, direct sunlight, radiation and extremes of heat and cold. The research from MISSE will provide the insight needed to develop materials for future spacecraft and will also help researchers make materials and coatings that will last longer on Earth. These materials will improve the performance, increase the useful life, and reduce the costs of future weather, communication and Earth observation satellites.
The MISSE project has tested approximately 3,500 specimens. Data from MISSE 6 will be recorded continuously while exposed to the harsh space environment to give researchers the total history of effects on the materials. Researchers will analyze the data upon retrieval next year.
MISSEs 6A and 6B made the voyage on STS-123, scheduled to be a 16-day flight and the longest shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Endeavour, commanded by Dominic Gorie, launched from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, March 11.
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